Friday, March 23, 2007

LaRussa's Nap Can't Be Shrugged Off

By now you've probably heard of St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa's DUI misdemeanor in Florida, in which he was found slumped at the wheel, asleep, at a traffic light -- at least through two cycles before a motorist reported him. Maybe you chuckled at the absurdity of the visual. I confess I snickered and rolled my eyes.

But it's not funny; not at all.

If LaRussa, who reportedly registered a 0.093 in a field sobriety test at the time, was too inebriated to stay awake at a traffic light to which he drove, then how fit was he to be behind a wheel in the first place?

It's frightening, really, to think of what could have happened in this instance -- what could have transpired if LaRussa stayed awake, after all. You've seen and heard enough drunken driving horror stories for me to have to spell it out to you.

It'll be interesting to see how the Cardinals and MLB handle this situation. Will they simply let the legal system do its thing, or will they feel compelled to do something separate from that?

LaRussa's mugshot

My feeling is that there should be some penance paid to the Cardinals and MLB, perhaps in the form of a suspension, if LaRussa is found guilty of these charges. And, frankly, I don't think there's any question that he acted improperly, at the very least. Not to pile on the Cardinals' manager, but if baseball did nothing after a finding of guilt and culpability, then I think that's wrong. I'm not talking anything unreasonable here. But I think a suspension of at least three regular season games isn't too harsh.

I don't know enough about Tony LaRussa to know if the behavior that led to this incident earlier this week is part of a pattern, or is isolated. I pray that it's the latter. But regardless, baseball -- and his employing team -- can't just be satisfied with whatever punishment the legal system deems fair.

Again, just think of how bad this could have turned out, had LaRussa not drifted off to an alcohol-induced slumber.

This time, being asleep at the wheel was probably a blessing. Not so, 99% of the rest of the time.


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